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USL releases home openers for 2018 season

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It’s been a busy few weeks for USL with the introduction of several new clubs, and now with the arrival of the 2018 season just a few months away we can finally dissect some of the schedule.

The league released a portion of its schedule on Friday ahead of the upcoming season, which will feature six new clubs.

[ MORE: Orlando City furious over Besiktas report of Larin signing ]

Atlanta United 2, Fresno FC, Indy Eleven, Las Vegas Lights FC, Nashville SC and North Carolina FC have all joined the second-tier division, while Orlando City B and the Rochester Rhinos have each taken a hiatus for the upcoming campaign.

Below is the full schedule of home openers for every USL team heading into the 2018 season.

Friday, March 16
Rio Grande Valley FC vs. Saint Louis FC
Seattle Sounders FC 2 vs. Portland Timbers 2

Saturday, March 17
Charleston Battery vs. FC Cincinnati
Charlotte Independence vs. Ottawa Fury FC
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC vs. LA Galaxy II
Fresno FC vs. Las Vegas Lights FC
Louisville City FC vs. Nashville SC
New York Red Bulls II vs. Toronto FC II
North Carolina FC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
OKC Energy FC vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Orange County SC vs. Phoenix Rising FC
Reno 1868 FC vs. Swope Park Rangers
Sacramento Republic FC vs. San Antonio FC

Sunday, March 18
Bethlehem Steel FC vs. Richmond Kickers

Saturday, March 24
ATL UTD 2 vs. New York Red Bulls II
Las Vegas Lights FC vs. Reno 1868 FC
Nashville SC vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Phoenix Rising FC vs. OKC Energy FC
Richmond Kickers vs. Indy Eleven
San Antonio FC vs. Saint Louis FC
Swope Park Rangers vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2
Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Bethlehem Steel FC
Tulsa Roughnecks FC vs. Real Monarchs SLC

Saturday, March 31
Indy Eleven vs. FC Cincinnati
LA Galaxy II vs. San Antonio FC
Pittsburgh Riverhounds vs. Penn FC
Real Monarchs SLC vs. Portland Timbers 2
Saint Louis FC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Toronto FC II vs. Ottawa Fury FC

Saturday, April 7
FC Cincinnati vs. Louisville City FC

Wednesday, April 18
Portland Timbers 2 vs. Rio Grande Valley FC

Saturday, April 21
Penn FC vs. Charleston Battery
Ottawa Fury FC vs. North Carolina FC

Cologne’s Hector extends contract despite likely relegation

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COLOGNE, Germany (AP) Germany defender Jonas Hector has shunned reported interest from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund by extending his contract with Cologne – despite the club’s almost certain relegation from the Bundesliga.

Cologne, eight points from safety with three games remaining, says its 27-year-old captain has signed a two-year extension to 2023 instead of using a release clause in his contract.

Hector, who has been at the club since 2010, says, “It wouldn’t have been a problem to switch to another club after this season but it didn’t feel right for me. I belong to Cologne and want to tackle the new season with the team and the fans behind us.”

Cologne sporting director Armin Veh says Hector’s decision is, “a great signal for the team, the club and our fans.”

Klopp talks politics: “Brexit makes no sense”

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Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fan of Brexit and he doesn’t care who knows it.

Liverpool’s German manager has spoken in the past about his disdain towards the vote by British citizens to leave the European Union, with Brexit officially planned for March 2019.

Klopp sat down with the Guardian to chat about a whole host of topics but it was his political views which will get the headlines ahead of Liverpool’s huge UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against AS Roma at Anfield on Tuesday.

The man who has Liverpool on the cusp of reaching a major European final and comfortably in the top four of the Premier League also admitted that he has a “helping syndrome” and wants to help out everyone and he cares about them greatly.

It is worth letting the words speak for themselves when it comes to Klopp’s comments on Brexit as it is clearly something else he cares a lot about.

Take it away, Jurgen…

“When Mr [David] Cameron had the idea [of a referendum] you thought: ‘This is not something people should decide in a moment.’ We are all influenced by the way only some of the argument is given, and once the decision is taken nobody gives you a real opportunity to change it again. The choice was either you stay in Europe, which is not perfect, or you go out into something nobody has any idea how it will work.

“So you give people the chance to make this big decision. And then it’s a 51-49 [51.9%-48.1%] vote and you’re thinking: ‘Wow, 49% are not happy with the decision that’s going to change the country.’ For the 51%, I’m sure they realized pretty early after the vote: ‘What have we done?’ The two leaders of the leave campaign then stepped aside. It was a pure sign they were surprised themselves by the vote. OK, that can happen. But then, come on, let’s sit together again. Let’s think about it again and let’s vote again with the right information – not with the information you’ve got around the Brexit campaign. They were obviously not right, not all of them. It makes no sense at all.”

“The EU is not perfect but it was the best idea we had. History has always shown that when we stay together we can sort out problems. When we split then we start fighting. There was not one time in history where division creates success. So, for me, Brexit still makes no sense.”

VIDEO: Napoli fans celebrate Juventus win

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It is safe to say Napoli’s fans were pretty happy with the 1-0 win their team secured at Juventus on Sunday.

Kalidou Koulibaly powered home a header in stoppage as Napoli moved just one point behind Juventus, who sit top of the Serie A table, with four games to go. The title race is well and truly on in Italy.

The scenes across Naples after the game were incredible and when the players arrived back at the airport at around 3 a.m. local time they were greeted by thousands of adoring fans.

Take a look at the video below. Wow.


Preview: Everton v. Newcastle

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  • Everton have won seven of their last eight games v Newcastle
  • Newcastle have won four PL games in a row
  • Wayne Rooney has more goals (15) against Newcastle than any other PL team

Everton host Newcastle United on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Toffees and Magpies both setting pretty in midtable.

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The Toffees sit in ninth, with Newcastle in 10th and just one point behind Everton with a game in hand. Rafael Benitez has been lauded for taking his newly-promoted side into the top 10 with defensive solidity, while Sam Allardyce has been lambasted for a defensive style of play despite getting Everton out of a relegation fight following his appointment back in November.

In team news Everton have Mason Holgate and Gylfi Sigurdsson out injured, while Newcastle will be without Christian Atsu but Islam Slimani could make his first start.


What they’re saying 

Sam Allardyce on the job Rafael Benitez has done at Newcastle: “From a difficult period they have managed to recover and get in the Premier League and they have turned it around. They have put together a run of games and we’ll see a better Newcastle than we saw up there [when Everton won 1-0 in December]. Rafa has progressed very well. He has always expressed his disappointment with not enough funds – we can all say we don’t have enough funds. What he has managed with the funds he has, particularly in the January months, has been excellent.”

Rafael Benitez on his Newcastle future: “I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time. I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.”

Prediction
Two teams who are very similar in terms of their style of play should see a bit of a stalemate take place at Goodison. 1-1 draw, which is a much better result for Newcastle and will pile more pressure on Big Sam.